Just days before the first round of the Big 12 Championship, junior Madison Pressel was ruled out with a right shoulder injury that persisted for months and finally prevented her from playing. Last year’s individual champion was sure to be a critical piece to Texas’ defense of a conference title, but they would have to go on without her.
It didn’t matter.
Texas dominated the field on Sunday, scoring 8-over-par 288 as a team to jump from sixth to finish second overall as a team. Only Oklahoma’s 36-hole lead was too much to overcome.
After a slow start left Texas in eighth after the first round, four of the five Longhorns shot their best rounds of the weekend on the final day, including junior Haley Stephens’ even-par 70 that led the team.
The only Longhorn who failed to do so was senior leader Nicole Vandermade, whose second record 1-under-par 69 was hard to top, and tied for the best single round of the entire weekend.
“We are playing really well, so this is perfect timing for us to go out and play,” Vandermade said. “The courses in the postseason usually play better with my driver so I know that my ball striking doesn’t have to be perfect in order for me to play well.”
Vandermade finished sixth individually, while freshman Bertine Strauss finished eighth.
For the third tournament this spring, the Longhorns experienced inclement weather that caused play to follow an abnormal schedule and several delays. Although Texas had not played particularly well through the rain, they used their previous experiences to their advantage for when it truly counted.
“I think what’s great about all the experiences we’ve had is they should prepare us well for whatever we run into from here on out,” said head coach Martha Richards. “We’ve played in everything. I think they’re starting to realize that they can play no matter what the conditions are, and they just have to go out there take care of their business.”
Despite failing to win their second straight Big 12 title, the Longhorns put themselves in a great position for Regional play in two weeks, which will be announced Monday.
“We have to continue to take care of our business or not get caught up in what everyone else is doing,” Richards said. “Take the results as data, and let it motivate you to get better.”
Printed on Monday, April 30, 2012 as: Longhorns unable to defend their title